Tourists flocking Boracay may be shocked to find their favourite places closed this summer, as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) cracks down on businesses contributing to the poor quality of water on the island.
In a statement, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the department began conducting an inventory of establishments on the island that have no environmental permits and violate environmental laws and regulations, particularly the country’s Clean Water Act.
“We expect the inventory to finish in a couple of weeks and after that, violation notices will be sent out to give erring establishments the chance to address their violations,” he said.
Paje added resorts and other businesses that do not have their own sewage treatment plants would be required to connect to the island’s sewer lines.
“We will issue orders of cessation of operation if they don’t comply with our requirements,” he warned.
The planned crackdown was triggered by the recent emergence of excessive green and slimy algae marring Boracay’s shoreline.
Although the water samples indicated that the island remained safe for swimming, Paje said the boom in algae growth still pointed to water pollution in the area caused by poor waste management with sewage being dumped into the waters.
The appearance of green algae in Boracay has become a natural occurrence during summer months when there is high influx of tourists.
In a study by conservation group Global Coral Reef Alliance, the presence of algae along Boracay’s shoreline during the calm season is a strong indicator of very high nutrient pollution that are typically found around sewage outfalls.
According to the study, the algae dies back in the rough season because waves dilute nutrients to lower levels and wash away the algae. The algae becomes visible again in the next calm season.
The study says that seasonal blooms are caused by the uncontrolled explosion of population growth in the interior of the island, where sewage is not connected to any sort of sewage system.
Paje, meanwhile, reiterated his appeal to the local government of Malay, Aklan, to withhold issuing business permits to establishments that do not have a discharge permit or connection to the sewerage system.
The DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau in Western Visayas reported in February coliform bacteria levels in a drainage outlet that empties into the sea in Sitio Bulabog in Boracay exceed safe standards and reached 47,460 most probable number (mpn) per 100 milimeter (ml).
The safe level is 1,000 mpn/100ml for waters for swimming and other human contact activities.
Apart from posing serious health and sanitary problems, coliform bacteria could also adversely affect aquatic resources, including marine life and coral reefs which, aside from the powdery white sand beaches, form part of the island’s main attractions.